A Careful Reading of Chomsky and Pollin on Climate Change

Okay. Before there was "omigod we withdrew from Afghanistan!" and before there was "omigod aren't the statistics on COVID-19 horrible now!" there was the IPCC report. And with the IPCC report, there was an interview with Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin about the IPCC report, dramatizing the dangerous situation in which climate change is transforming the Earth as we speak. This is from Monday of this week -- under the current media dispensation it bizarrely counts as "old news."

Now, the spirit of this thing is something I agree with. The report puts a lot of faith into carbon capture and removal, a really shifty notion. And, yeah, Chomsky is right on this point:

We can have no faith in structures of power and what they will do unless pressed hard by an informed public that prefers survival to short-term gain for the “masters of the universe.”

But then when you get down to the Robert Pollin portion of this interview, in which we read, halfway down the page:

In the U.S., the Biden administration is, of course, a vast improvement relative to the four disastrous years under Trump.

Of course, Pollin has a justification for this statement. What follows is:

Soon after taking office, Biden set out emissions reduction targets in line with the IPCC, i.e., a 50 percent reduction by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. Moreover, the American Jobs Plan that Biden introduced in March would have allocated about $130 billion per year in investments that would advance a clean energy infrastructure that would supplant our current fossil fuel-dominant system.

But upon reading this, one has to wonder if Pollin realized what he had previously said about Biden, which was:

The immediate U.S. government reaction to the IPCC report was hardly encouraging. President Joe Biden sent his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, to censure the main oil-producing countries (OPEC) for not raising oil production high enough.

Does Pollin not recognize that "emissions targets" are worth as much as the paper they're written on, no more and no less? And does Pollin realize that if Biden is putting pressure upon OPEC to extract more oil from the ground, that this is worse than mere climate change denial?

Are we better off under Biden, if the resultant policy mix makes smart people like Robert Pollin believe that Biden is "better" but also does nothing to mitigate climate change? Are we better off than we would be under Trump, given that when Trump was President at least the nice liberals with big egos were rightfully inflamed over the insanity of Trump's political positions?

I'm just going to leave it there.

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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

Biden is a loyal servant of Morgoth. Trump is a loyal servant only of himself, happy to work for Morgoth, but not a true disciple; if Code Pink could pay him more, he'd work for them.

I call it Morgoth because it is the root of ALL evil in the present world (any evil it is NOT at the root of it is still inflaming and/or encouraging), INCLUDING being the #1 source of greenhouse emissions.

All roads lead to the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Financial-Security-Energy-Telecom-etc-Complex. It is an all-but-literal cancer upon the whole world.

No, things have NOT improved.

"Mankind must put an end to war - or war will put an end to mankind."
― John F. Kennedy

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In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is declared insane when he speaks of colors.

To paraphrase Jodie Foster: Human is not something to aspire to, it's something to get away from.

Biden puts enough window dressing out there to allow concerned liberals and lefties to sleep easier at night and to get back to brunch. Trump doesn't try to hide it. I've seen nothing from the Biden administration that shows they are treating the climate crisis with the seriousness it deserves, but I've seen plenty that allows well meaning people to say "he's doing better than Trump."

(YMMV on this but anything that puts a deadline in the future, be it 2030 or 2050, isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Goalposts are always moved and padding like this tells me they plan on doing nothing, counting on some Musk or Bezos inventing our way out of this, at a healthy profit to all involved. Plus, as noted, the pressure for increased oil production indicates to me business as usual, despite any promises they won't be alive to have to keep. Anything that doesn't address reducing production and consumption is snake oil.)

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Idolizing a politician is like believing the stripper really likes you.

Cassiodorus's picture

@Dr. John Carpenter Of course, the phrase "clean energy" ought to set off a red flag right away. "Clean energy" is an attempt to group "natural gas" (methane and ethane) with solar and wind power. We're going to invent a new color, folks, and it's going to include both pure black and pure white. That's the logic of "clean energy" in a nutshell.

And, of course, one can see the overall strategy -- solar and wind are to supplement fossil fuels far, far into the future, because it's so much fun to read people who imagine that one more solar panel will automatically equal less natural gas usage.

And, yes, you're right about all of this.

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"The future is inside us/ It's not somewhere else." -- Radiohead

@Cassiodorus to catch a whiff of its fumes. What I’m smelling is very tentative baby steps into renewables or green energy that seem to me to be at least 30 years too late. Most of that seems to me just to say they’re doing something, not that it is producing any meaningful volume of power.

I don’t know enough about everything to know what all is involved, but I do know there’s a much higher cost to this stuff at the moment. I know there’s infrastructure changes that have to happen for any sort of impact to be possible. Just like you can’t plug your car in and have your gas engine magically be electric.

As long as the US is addicted to cheap energy and high shareholder profits, I think they’re going to keep trying to rebrand gas, coal and other fossils as “clean” or green somehow and belch out non-solutions like carbon credits. Again, I’m not in the trenches per se, but I’ve seen nothing that indicates to me this works without a reduction of consumption and an increase in price. I think Carter was the last president to deal with those ideas and he got skewered for it.

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Idolizing a politician is like believing the stripper really likes you.

What would be the significance of that?

Or, suppose that it turns out that Sleepy Joe is actually worse than Donnie Fucknuts? What would be the significance of that?

I honestly cannot think of any answer other than both Presidencies are hopelessly inadequate for the need for drastic action as of about 50 years ago.

But as noted on this thread, it does make some comfortable people feel less sadness about how gosh darn hard it is to prevent climate change from destroying what we like to call civilization. Such a shame.

Blah blah blah.

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I cried when I wrote this song. Sue me if I play too long.

This is a statement from a climate scientist at a Climate Symposium, who was on an IPCC committee. Everything that we have done to date is to develop some tech that would be useful if we were actually serious. But we aren't. We will know that we are serious when-

1. The Climate Crisis is funded like the military, at that level. It is the same type of problem, it can't be solved by the free market.
2. Fossil fuel powered cars have a firm phase out date, 5 or fewer years.
3. Fossil fuel as an energy source for grid power has a firm phase out date, not more than 10 years out, with the possible exception of NG peaking plants.
4. A firm date for pulling NG pipes from all US cities. Not more than 10 years out.
5. Oil drilling permit moratorium.
6. Ban on use of oil for space heating, not more than 7 years out.
7. Absolute ban on mining coal for the energy market, in 3 years.

These steps would force a war-footing effort to replace all fossil fuel energy source with clean energy sources. Until we do this we are not serious and it's business as usual. The fossil fuel sector and the automobile sector are convinced that they can ride this out until 2070, and
meanwhile make the right noises.

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Capitalism has always been the rule of the people by the oligarchs. You only have two choices, eliminate them or restrict their power.

wendy davis's picture

but i've been rather tongue-tied lately. i'm a long-time detractor of chomsky, including he and his friends having cancelled voting for Green Howie Hawkins recently. Counterpunch had carried it.

i read robert hunziker at CP fairly regularly, as he narrates the dying and destruction of the planet pretty damned honestly.

recently he had published this interview w/ chomsky and friend:

A World of Total Illusion and Fantasy: Noam Chomsky on the Future of the Planet’, July 12, 2021 BY Robert Hunziker, counterpunch, with 28 min video

Noam: “There are opportunities that must be grasped to stop the madness. To be effective, change must come from below from the general population not from above or the politicians. For example, Congress passed a resolution calling for a Green New Deal introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. He claims: “It’s a very good proposal.” Extensive activism got it to this point. The key to making things happen is “boots on the ground.” The Sunrise Movement occupied Nancy Pelosi’s office and got support from AOC. That’s grass roots activism at work and it has succeeded, so far.

Chomsky: “There are good people like Ocasio-Cortez and Markey but they’re not going to get anywhere unless there’s extensive popular pressure compelling the legislative authorities, the Congress, the White House to pursue these objectives.” For example, when FDR wanted to pass New Deal legislation, he told the public: “You have to make me do it, I cannot do it myself.” It takes human bodies with boots on the ground to effectively influence legislation. Whereas, clicking a mouse gets nowhere and easily ignored."

now to call AOS's Deal a Pipedream would be low-balling it, imo. just the retro-fitting of buildings, say, would have a Huge carbon footprint, never mind 'renewable' energy sources (NOT usually sustainable)

NPR has the cliffs notes a well as the pdf of The Deal, but never once does it mention tht the US military has the largest carbon footprint on the plnet.

Green Capitalism, false solutions.

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